Living with the Questions

“God has not only met my needs, but has woven all of the threads of my life into a new quilt that is more diverse and colorful than I could have imagined …


Article by Malcolm Marler


As I turned 54 this summer, I became aware that I have more questions than I have answers.  When I was younger, I had more answers.


Now that I’m older … I can remember other times of questions and transitions in my life and how God has helped me to survive and thrive through them all…


I remember when I was 10 when I sat in our den as my Dad told my sister and me that my mother had died suddenly during the night.  Thankfully, a dozen “mothers” promptly stepped forward from our church over the next few weeks, months, and years for me.  And then I was blessed to have Jimmie Ruth Hudson to become my stepmother three years later.  She is still in my life 41 years later.


I remember when I was 15, sitting in an empty high school football stadium with my Dad as he contemplated whether to accept becoming the pastor of a new church.  That meant moving us from the only home I had known to an unfamiliar one for my high school years.  I only knew that I wanted to play football at the local high school because they had recently been the state champion.   My Dad eventually accepted the position in the new town, and I ended up having a wonderful high school experience there.


I remember when Alabama and Coach Bear Bryant didn’t call and offer me a football scholarship my senior year (hint — I was 5′ 8″, 160 lbs), and I thought it was the end of the world.  But then my former childhood buddy in Montgomery, Billy Eley, mentioned to his neighbor’s brother (who happened to be the head recruiter at Clemson University and a former All-American) that they should look at me.  A few weeks later I was offered a full, four-year scholarship to attend Clemson.  What a blessing … I was starting at defensive back at Clemson during my freshman year … living the dream to play college football at a major university.


I remember trying to figure out if I was going to live in Connecticut for the rest of my life in 1994.  I loved the church I was serving and my friends in New England as well.  I weighed if I would try to save my wounded marriage and follow my former wife back to Alabama.  My father was also ill and I moved back home and tried to repair my marriage.  My Dad died a few months later and I eventually divorced. But I am so thankful I made the move that allowed me to be a chaplain at The 1917 Clinic (HIV/AIDS Clinic) at the University of Alabama Birmingham for the past 15 years.  It has been an amazing experience.


I remember when I gave up on the idea that I would ever find a life partner after looking for 8 years after my divorce.  So I let go and decided to build a house on the lake to live the rest of my life alone. And then what a surprise it was when I fell in love with Mary Sullivan six months later.  I was even more shocked when my new family wanted to come to live with me on the lake in the middle of nowhere.  Another blessing.  It has turned out better than I could have imagined.


Life goes by quickly doesn’t it?  


And now I am at another crossroads with plenty of questions.  In the past few weeks, I accepted a new position as Director of Pastoral Care at the University of Alabama Birmingham Medical Center.  And before accepting this new role, my thoughts took me from whether to remain chaplain of the 1917 Clinic … to return to work in the church as a priest in my new faith home in the Episcopal Church … whether Mary and I could both serve as Episcopal priests together someday … or whether I should do something entirely different.


I’ve had no fewer and no less important questions about my home life … do Mary and I want to sell our home on Smith Lake and live more simply now that we are “empty nesters” with the kids having left for college? … the list of questions can seemingly go on for a very long time.


And so I have many more questions than I do answers at fifty-four.  I am thankful to have a life partner whom I love with my whole heart.


Most of all, I am thankful I can remember that I have faith in God who has met my needs in my life through all of my previous questions and transitions.  God has not only met my needs, but has woven all of the threads of my life into a new quilt that is more diverse and colorful than I could have imagined.  Nothing has been wasted.


So, today, I think I’ll just make friends with the questions for awhile, and trust.  The answers can wait.


The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

-Psalm 28:7 (NIV)


Malcolm Marler is the new Director of Pastoral Care for UAB Hospital in Birmingham, AL beginning October 5, 2009.  Previously, Malcolm was the first full-time Chaplain for HIV/AIDS patients in the United States hired by a state university health system in 1994 at the University of Alabama Birmingham.  In addition to his interest in spirituality and health, he loves to identify physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of persons, then design and build programs that help meet those needs.  His warmth and humor along with his powerful message of hope and grace is his greatest strength.  Malcolm grew up in Alabama and attended Clemson University (S.C.) on a football scholarship as a defensive back where he graduated with a B.A. degree in Psychology.  He is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY with Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees.  Malcolm lives on a lake in North Alabama with the love of his life, Mary Bea Sullivan.  He has two open-hearted, loving stepchildren, Brendan and Kiki who are both freshman in college.  For more information or to contact Malcolm, please visit


If you liked this article, please share it on, StumbleUpon or Digg. Thanks!

Posted on 23 September, 2009 in Gratitude, Inspirational Stories, Spirituality
Digg  |  |   Stumble    

No Responses so far | Have Your Say!

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Search Site